Federal Reserve officials were encouraged last month by evidence the U.S. economy was picking up, but they showed no sign of moving closer to ending their bond purchases or lifting their benchmark short-term interest rate from nearly zero.
Fed policymakers also said they expect inflation will likely rise in the next few months because of supply bottlenecks, but they believe it will remain near their 2% target in the longer run.
“It would likely be some time until substantial further progress toward” the Fed's goals of maximum employment and inflation at 2% are reached, and “asset purchases would continue at least at the current pace until then,” the Fed said in minutes taken during its meeting March 16 and 17. The minutes were released Wednesday after the customary three-week lag.
Trade deficit hits new mark
The U.S. trade deficit grew to a record $71.1 billion in February, as a decline in exports more than offset a slight dip in imports, with severe weather taking much of the blame from analysts, who were expecting a slightly lower gap.
The February gap between what America buys from abroad compared to what it sells abroad jumped 4.8% above the revised January deficit of $67.8 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has stifled global trade for more than a year, but those barriers appear to be falling as millions of people get vaccinated and countries start easing operating restrictions for businesses. Total trade after two months of 2021 is just 1.8% behind where it was at this time last year, before the global economy was blindsided by the pandemic.
Toshiba weighs buy offer
Toshiba Corp. says it is considering a preliminary acquisition proposal that would take the technology conglomerate private. Trading in the company's shares was suspended.
The Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei reported CVC Capital Partners was looking into acquiring the company for $18 billion. CVC, an international private equity and credit company, declined to comment.
Toshiba was long revered as one of Japan's most respected brands, developing the country's first radar and microwaves, electric rice cookers and laptop computers. It also invented flash memory. Its businesses today include nuclear power, railways, elevators and storage for digital data.